Discovery has led the fight against the Emerald Chain and made First Contact with Species 10-C. What else does it need to do to earn flagship status?
The titular starship in Star Trek: Discovery isn’t considered as the flagship of the United Federation of Planets in the 32nd century and there are several good reasons for and against it achieving this status. Flagship is an old naval term that refers to the lead vessel in a fleet of ships, commanded by a flag officer. Usually, this ship is the largest in the fleet, or the most heavily armed, most advanced, or best-known of the ships. The USS Discovery is definitely advanced, with its game-changing spore drive, but it hasn’t yet been bestowed with the honor of being named the flagship of the Federation.
Although Star Trek is inspired by naval traditions, the flagship term is also used by Starfleet to identify the ship that best embodies the Federation’s core values of exploration and diplomacy. Despite being called Discovery, the ship commanded by Captain Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) is usually deployed to handle galactic crises like the Dark Matter Anomaly or the attack on the Federation by the Emerald Chain. Again, while this is exactly what a flagship would do in the naval tradition, Discovery isn’t recognized as such.
Why Discovery Isn’t The Flagship Of The 32nd Century Federation
With a few notable exceptions, Starfleet and Federation’s use of the term flagship is more metaphorical than military. The ships that it bestows this title upon are generally deemed to be the exemplars of the Federation’s best qualities. In Star Trek: The Next Generation, the USS Enterprise-D was both a military and metaphorical flagship, used for both Captain Picard’s exemplary First Contact missions and as the lead ship in the armada that ran a blockade across the Klingon and Romulan border in the TNG “Redemption” two-parter. So while it’s possible for the USS Discovery to also do both, their temporal displacement does put them at a disadvantage with First Contact missions.
Arriving 930 years into the future, everything was new to Captain Burnham and her crew. And while Discovery was responsible for re-establishing the Federation after the Burn, they’re representative of old-school values rather than those of the 32nd century. Burnham’s 23rd-century recklessness put her at odds with Federation President Laira Rillak (Chelah Horsdal), but the President realized that Discovery’s Captain was also the best-placed officer for the more complex missions. In Star Trek: Discovery season 4, Burnham was twice asked to get involved with diplomatic disputes by Rillak so that the President could maintain her impartiality. On both occasions, Burnham successfully convinced Ni’Var to rejoin the Federation and convinced the Federation to make First Contact with Species 10-C.
Discovery Should Be The Federation Flagship
Michael Burnham has proven herself to be an excellent diplomat on more than one occasion, and the USS Discovery has led the Federation’s efforts against all manner of threats in the 32nd century. Therefore, Discovery embodies every possible definition of the term flagship. Burnham and Captain Saru (Doug Jones) recently averted a catastrophe by conducting a successful First Contact mission with Species 10-C, finding common ground with a truly alien species.
This should confirm to Starfleet once and for all that the USS Discovery truly represents the very best of the Federation’s ideals, as well as it also being a very handy ship to have during periods of conflict. From what’s known about Star Trek: Discovery season 5, the crew is embarking on a search for what Doctor Kovich (David Cronenberg) describes as “the greatest treasure in the known galaxy.” It’s unclear exactly what this treasure is, but it does suggest that the crew will be exploring the 32nd century in more detail, hinting that season 5 will see the USS Discovery finally live up to its name, and perhaps earn the status of the new Federation flagship.